By Lauren Koenig
Amidst a flurry of business cards and networking at this year’s Scientista Symposium career fair, researcher Maomao Zhang connected with Calico Labs Head of Talent Matt Valentino and took the first step towards landing a dream job.
“We really liked her work experience and enthusiasm for what we are doing at Calico and began discussing potential roles with her about one month after the Scientista event,” said Matt. “We are grateful to Scientista for holding these networking events as without them we would not have had the opportunity to meet and get to know Maomao.”
Maomao, who is completing a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Cancer Biology and Genetics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, will begin her new role at Calico this month as a Scientist in the Oncology Division. Calico is a leading research and development company that focuses on the basic biology of aging, as well as discovering and developing interventions aimed at age-related diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.
Prior to the career fair, Maomao identified Calico as one of her preferred opportunities because of their commitment to high-quality scientific research. “This was further made clear to me when I spoke to Matt Valentino about the culture, resources and goals of the company. For example, Matt mentioned that the Microscopy department just built their own microscope, which I thought was awesome! Moreover, the core values of Calico--Innovation, Integrity, Courage, Accountability, Collaboration and Generosity of Spirit--greatly aligns with the type of scientist and person I strive to be.”
From the perspective of Calico, the symposium, which focuses on diversity within a value-driven STEM community, was an ideal pool from which to identify potential researchers with the right experience and passion for science. “Beyond that, we look for researchers who can work in ambiguity as we’re trying to answer some really lofty questions about aging, or creative and unafraid to communicate their ideas, as well as willing to take risks,” said Matt. “While all of our values are important, we look for researchers who thrive in situations where collaboration is necessary, as we believe real breakthroughs occur when great scientists, technologists and engineers collaborate openly and freely. And not just collaborate, but do so with a generosity of spirit, which means that employees strive to be kind and considerate, respecting each other’s individuality and perspectives and graciously share both ideas and credit.”
To make the most out of a career fair, Maomao emphasized the importance of researching the visiting companies and building confidence by practicing networking skills at as many networking events and career fairs as possible. “I prepared questions for the representatives—high-quality questions that could not be easily answered just by personal research alone. I then planned out my day and made a game plan for which tables to visit. Preparation ensured that I didn’t get overwhelmed and it gave me ample time to speak to every company I was interested in.”
The Scientista Symposium offers a specific opportunity for fellow women in science to network and to highlight their work experience.
“I really value the ability to talk to other female scientists that come from different academic and personal backgrounds to see different perspectives and gain insight into how they navigate the male-dominated STEM fields,” said Maomao.
Prospective employers and aspiring researchers will have another chance to meet at the next Scientista Symposium career fair, which will be held in Boston on March 29-31, 2019.
About the Author
Lauren Koenig (who is also the editor in chief for The Scientista Foundation) is a is a PhD student at Michigan State University studying the behavior and physiology of electric fish. Since obtaining her B.A. in biology from Vanderbilt University, she worked on several wildlife research projects throughout North and South America. She is excited to work with Scientista to increase accessibility to research and expand outreach efforts geared for women in STEM. Her experience in science writing includes an internship with publisher John Wiley & Sons Inc., working as science editor for the Vanderbilt McLaughlin neurology lab, and serving on the staff of her university’s newspaper. In her free time, Lauren enjoys wildlife photography, kayaking, dance, and going to concerts.
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